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SERAP Asks Lawan, Gbajabiamila To Publish Reports On Corruption Probes, Seeks Special Counsel Bill

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan; and Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, urging them to use their “good offices and leadership positions to urgently publish all reports of completed public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly since the return of democracy in 1999.”

The organization also urged them to “disclose the number and details of public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly that have resulted in any indictment of suspects, and to name such suspects. The reports should be sent to appropriate anti-corruption agencies to consider if there is sufficient admissible evidence to pursue prosecution.”

In the FoI requests dated 25 July, 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Publishing the reports of hearings and probes would bolster public trust and confidence in the oversight functions, and dispel the perception that many of these hearings and probes are politically motivated and serve personal interest, rather than the general public interests.”

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Support Nigeria’s Economic Recovery, Buhari Tells Citizens In Diaspora

SERAP said: “The most effective way to deter corruption is to make the cost of engaging in these types of acts higher than the rewards. This end can only be accomplished by making public the reports and pursuing public accountability for corrupt acts. Doing so would also give Nigerians greater confidence that their lawmakers can use their constitutional oversight functions to address corruption in Nigeria.”

The FoI requests, read in part: “We urge you to sponsor a resolution to stop lawmakers from directly getting involved in the execution of projects by ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to ensure the proper and effective exercise of oversight functions, including investigations of corruption allegations, such as those involving the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).”

“We also urge you to urgently use the opportunity of the ongoing public hearings and corruption probes to influence Nigeria’s anti-corruption agenda, including by immediately amending section 52 of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act on independent counsel for corruption.”

“Section 52 requires the Chief Justice of Nigeria to authorise an independent counsel to investigate any allegation of corruption against high level public officials, and to report his/her findings to the National Assembly or appropriate house of assembly.”

“The proposed amendment should include additional requirements beyond merely reporting to lawmakers, that would allow the independent counsel to use the findings of any investigation as a basis to pursue effective prosecution of corruption cases without any authorisation by the executive or the National Assembly.”

“SERAP notes that both the Senate and House of Representatives have over the years conducted several public hearings and corruption probes to expose pervasive problem of corruption in MDAs.”

“SERAP is concerned about the systemic and widespread corruption allegations in MDAs and among high-ranking public officials, and the negative impacts on socio-economic development, as well as access of Nigerians to public goods and services, including quality education, adequate healthcare, clean water and regular electricity supply.”

“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of the FoI requests. If we have not heard from you by then, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to compel you to comply with our requests.”

“The exercise of oversight functions and powers by the National Assembly to conduct public hearings and corruption probes in MDAs should be regarded as a public trust.”

“The National Assembly has a unique opportunity to enhance transparency and accountability, as well as the integrity of its oversight functions on corruption matters in particular, and other constitutional roles, in general, including by publishing widely the reports of all corruption-related public hearings since 1999.”

“There is legitimate public interest in the publication of the reports of these public hearings and probes. The public hearings and probes can only serve as effective mechanisms to prevent and combat corruption if their reports are widely published.”

“By Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act 2011, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on reports of all public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly since 1999.”

“By Section 4 (a) of the FoI Act, when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or urgency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received.”

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MARTE: Anti-Terrorism Coalition Applauds Nigerian Army, Troops For Victory Over Boko Haram Insurgents

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The Coalition Against Terrorism and Extremism (CATE) has hailed the Nigerian Army for another successful onslaught on Boko Haram terrorists in Marte Local Government Area of Borno State.

The centre, in a statement on Sunday, said the insurgents suffered decisive damage but urged the troops not to allow them to regroup.

Recall that troops of Operation Tura Takaibango in conjunction with Air Task Force Operation Lafiya Dole, on Friday night, eliminated scores of terrorists and destroyed seven of their gun trucks in the outskirts of Marte.

In a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Gabriel Onoja, CATE said the recent outing is a reminder that the terrorists are not superior to the Nigerian state and will forever remain criminals.

According to Onoja, the war against insurgency is approaching the final stages and all Nigerians have their roles.

The centre, however, advised that fleeing terrorists should be pursued into whatever warren they run into and be visited with what they have invited on themselves.

The CATE, therefore, called on the inhabitants in adjourning areas to be exceptionally vigilant to new persons arriving in their domains, some of whom are fleeing terrorists with a penchant for seeking cover and treatment in nearby towns and villages.

Read the full statement below:

The Coalition Against Terrorism and Extremism (CATE) is pleased to note the success of the Nigerian troops under Operation Tura Takaibango which collaborated with the Air Task Force Operation Lafiya Dole to  on Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP)/Boko Haram fighters in

We commend the Nigerian Army and the entire Armed Forces for the success recorded in reminding the insurgent terrorists that they are not superior to the Nigerian state and will forever remain criminals who should be hunted down and neutralized for the safety and wellbeing of the people. We are confident that with the necessary support, the Nigerian military can continue to deliver this kind of cheery news to the country regularly.

CATE further notes that “reliable information” supplied to the troops made the military operation successful, which goes to the heart of what we have always advocated, which is for the general populace to constantly volunteer information to the military and law enforcement. The war against insurgency is certainly at a stage where the Nigerians have greater roles to play in defeating terrorism.

It is reassuring that the troops did not get carried away by the achievement of destroying 7 terrorists’ gun trucks and decimating numerous terrorists but have pressed on in pursuit of those that were escaping from the ISWAP/Boko Haram misadventure. Our position remains that such fleeing terrorists should be pursued into whatever warren they flee into and be visited with what they have invited on themselves.

Since some of these fleeing terrorists have a penchant for seeking cover and treatment in towns and villages, we particularly call on the people living in adjourning areas to be exceptionally vigilant to new persons arriving in their domains, especially if such persons are carrying war injuries. They should be given up to the authorities while communities in the northeast should also be more circumspect in providing accommodation or shelter to persons whose identities they cannot vet.

The prospect of defeating terrorism in the northeast and any other part of the country is anchored on preventing terrorists from recovering or regrouping after taking the kind of beating unleashed on them by troops in Marte. Members of the public are strategic to achieving this and it is best attained by supplying credible information to the military and starving the terrorists of the humanitarian support that they have used to recover from war injuries and regrouping.

Meanwhile, CATE is disappointed by reportage of some media outlets, social media influencers and bloggers who had rushed to credit ISWAP/Boko Haram with victory in the Marte encounter without recourse to the fact on the ground. The haste with which these group of people attributed the victory to the terrorists suggests that they had foreknowledge of the terrorists’ attack and had anticipated that they would inflict damages on the community as was the case in the distant past without realizing that the fundamentals have changed.

It is most unfortunate that certain individuals and organizations continue to act as if they are not citizens of Nigeria in the way they collide with terrorists by amplifying their murderous activities or even in some cases attributing phantom victories to the terrorists. We counsel such persons and organizations to stop their subversive propaganda activities and rally behind the Nigeria state to defeat terrorism.

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Centre To UK House Of Lords: Attaching Religion To Insecurity Crisis In Nigeria For Any Sanction Will Harm Humanity

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The Centre for International and Strategic Studies (CISS) has warned the House of Lords in the United Kingdom against attaching religion to Nigeria’s security challenges, as any sanction would do the country more harm than good.

The centre, which gave the warning in a press conference on Wednesday, in Abuja, also advised the British parliamentarians to be properly guided in their assessment, noting that any wrong move could lead to a crisis of unimaginable proportion.

In his address, special rapporteur, Professor Peter Maidoki rubbished the call by some lawmakers for sanction on Nigeria over an “erroneous report of the rising number of killings of Christians by terrorists and state actors”.

According to Prof Maidoki, it is wrong to reduce security threats in Nigeria to the fault lines of religion.

The special rapporteur noted that the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and his service chiefs have made the most impact in addressing the country’s security challenges and it is unfair to even mutter the idea of sanction.

Prof Maidoki added that both Christians and Muslims have been at the receiving end of the crisis in northern Nigeria.

The CISS, however, advised the House of Lords not to play into the hands of the terrorists based on the ignorance expressed in its report.

The centre further demanded that the lower chamber of the UK’s parliament treats the letter calling for sanctions on Nigeria in a similar manner the world rejected the invasion of the US Capitol.

Instead of such sanction, the CISS urged the parliamentarians and the entire world to join hands with Nigeria to stamp out terrorism.

Read the full statement below:

You are aware that some members of United Kingdom House of Lords have called on the UK Government to apply sanctions on Nigeria based on an erroneous report of the rising number of killings of Christians by terrorists and state actors in Nigeria.

The call, which was contained in a letter to Dominic Raab, MP, UK’s Foreign Secretary, House of Commons, London, was signed by David Patrick Paul Alton, the Lord Alton of Liverpool, a Liberal Democratic member of UK Parliament; Caroline Annex Cox, a  cross-bench member of the UK House of Lords; and others but most remarkably, the former Nigeria President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

We had thought that since one of our own is involved in writing the letter, that at least the UK parliamentarians would be properly guided in their assessment of the security situation in Nigeria.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case as we have seen traces of partisanship and deliberate attempts to twist facts to arrive at a predetermined conclusion.

THE ISSUES

The petitioners, rather than be objective in their analysis, reduced the entire Boko Haram terrorism and other criminal activities by armed groups to a religious conflict.

They also alleged cases of human rights abuses against a particular faith by the armed groups and state actors.

While it is true that more needs to be done about the security situation in Nigeria, it is definitely misleading to reduce the challenges to the fault lines of religion and to accuse the Nigerian military of either collusion or inaction or perpetrating human rights abuses.

The most uncharitable is to use such baseless allegations as a basis to call for sanctions against Nigeria.

This is most unfair because if there is an administration that has given the issue of security a deserved attention, it is the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Since May 2015 when the Buhari administration was inaugurated, it has taken bold steps to curb terrorism, insurgency and other crimes in the country hence cannot at all, be accused of sleeping on the matter.

Within the last year, the Nigerian military has neutralised over 2,000  terrorists across the northern part of the country, arrested over a hundred of their members and informants and destroyed their weapons and operational facilities.

This is in addition to major feats it recorded in the previous years which have restored normalcy to most parts of the region.

Nigerian troops, for instance, have entered the base of the terrorists at Sambisa Forest and captured their centre, called Camp Zero.

The troops have also recaptured territories seized  y terrorists including 20 local governments spread across the three states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe and brought them back to Nigeria.

They have retaken captured military bases in  Bama, Monguno and Gwoza as well as recapturing territories captured by the terrorists while the efforts of the military have made it impossible for the insurgents to launch further attacks on communities.

Added to that, Nigeria’s annual military expenditure has grown from $1.8bn in 2016 to $2.1bn by 2021, at a compound annual growth rate of 3.73%, according to a report by Strategic Defence Intelligence.

To boost its preparedness and resolve to flush out the terrorists, the Nigerian Army last year purchased more equipment including the Chinese Rotary Wing AVIC AV500 drone to carry out ISR missions at medium altitude, carry out strikes and stay airborne for nine hours while fighting terrorists.

The Nigerian Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai at a time, even relocated to the centres of the conflict and stayed in the trenches with troops until substantial damages were inflicted on the ranks of the terrorists.

The battle was so fierce against the terrorists that the leader of the Boko Haram terrorists, Abubakar Shekau was heard weeping in an audiotape about how his men have been subdued by Nigerian forces and had even considered surrendering.

For a government that has taken these steps and has made it a priority to defeat terrorism, it is most unfair for anyone to contemplate taking sanctions against them.

We recall that it was similar gestures based probably on such misleading reports that led the US government and other nations to stop selling weapons to Nigeria during the past administration which gave the insurgents an upper hand in the fight and enhanced their recruitment drive.

But the impression given by this letter is that the Nigerian Government is not doing anything about exterminating the problem.

We do not want the UK to be misled by the current report into believing that the Nigerian government is either lax about the situation or supporting the insurgents.

This is far from the truth.

THE RELIGIOUS CARD

The most misleading aspect of the letter is the claim that the attacks are purely religious and targeted at only Christians.

The letter reads in part: ‘’We write following the publication of a new report by Nigerian human rights group`, Intersociety (December 14, 2020,  Intersociety, an estimated 34,400 Christians have been killed in Nigeria since 2009 – including 17,000 by Boko Haram (and its splinter groups) and 15,500 by Fulani militia.”

We ask, what is the total number of people that have died as a result of terrorism in Nigeria since 2009 that only Christians would be up to 34,400.

We, therefore, a state without fear of contradiction that the report is not only misleading but is an attempt to incite the people against religious lines.

While some terrorists have tried to use primordial fault lines to instigate a large scale crisis in the country, it is wrong to conclude that the victims of the crises have been only Christians.

Attacks in the northern states and the Middle Belt have been visited on all persons in those areas irrespective of religious beliefs or ethnicity.

In fact, the demographics of the affected areas, indicate that non-Christians have been more at the receiving end of such atrocities like killings, rape, abductions, arson etc by the terrorists.

The areas worse affected by the attacks in the Northeast include the Northern and central parts of Borno State which are populated mainly by Muslims.

Same with the other parts of the Northeast like Yobe and Adamawa States.

In the Northwest, all the areas affected like Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina with the probable exception of Kaduna State are almost hundred per cent Muslims.

Even in the Middle Belt states, the crisis cannot be termed religious as people of different faith in states like Niger, Nasarawa, Plateau and Benue have suffered similar fates.

It is also not true that Nigerian security forces have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The Nigerian Army has conducted itself most professionally by always observing the rules on engagement.

The chief of Army Staff to check the few reported cases even set up a desk for civilians to report cases of abuse and since then there have been no reports of human rights violations.

OUR CALL

We, therefore, consider the call for sanction against Nigeria based on these inexact and misleading reports as callous and unacceptable.

such calls aim to further polarise the people of the country and set them up against each other on religious lines which is exactly what the insurgents have been praying for.

The UK Government should not be based on the ignorance expressed in this report play into the hands of the terrorists.

We have seen how a young UK parliamentarian goofed when he said a former Nigerian Head of State stole the Central Bank.

This is one of such faux pax that should not be allowed to stand.

We demand that the same manner the world rebuffed the UK parliamentarian for getting his facts twisted should be applied here.

Furthermore, we demand that the manner  the world treated the invasion of US Capitol as despicable, should be the same way it treats this letter as it tends to violate the right of the people of Nigeria to be protected by its government and armed forces.

We call on all to join hands with Nigeria and the rest of the world to stamp out terrorism.

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Sagay: No Restriction Stopping Tinubu From Contesting Presidency In 2023

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Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), renowned professor of law and civil rights ac­tivist, on Monday, said it was the turn of southern­ers to produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor in 2023 in order to preserve the unity of the country and ensure justice and fairness.

Speaking exclusively with Daily Independent, Sagay, who is the Chair­man of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PA­CAC) and a chieftain of the ruling All Progres­sives Congress (APC), also said there was an informal zoning agreement which the party must honour in selecting the presidential flag bearer for the 2023 gen­eral elections.

According to him, even though the agreement was not written, the founders of the APC agreed that the presidency would move to the South after the North had completed two terms of eight years.

Sagay also said President Buhari shouldn’t be the one to determine his successor or come out openly to de­clare support for any of the aspirants, but only support his favoured aspirant with his vote.

“He (Buhari) shouldn’t be the one to determine who will be his successor. There is a process in the APC such as primaries.

“Also in the APC, there is informal zoning. They did not write the agreement down but everybody agreed that after a northerner has spent two terms in office, a southerner will be nom­inated by the APC as the presidential candidate.

“So, it is the turn of southerners to compete for nomination. The northern­ers would have completed their turn by 2023.This is just to ensure that there is unity, equity, and no zone takes the other for a fool”.

“So, my belief is that the president is going to ensure that the candidate will be a southerner. He may support a can­didate with his vote but I don’t think it will be proper for him to come out to say ‘this is the man I want to succeed me’.The aspirants, who are southerners, should be given a level playing field to contest for votes from people who will vote at the primaries.”

Also speaking on the presidential ambition of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the party’s national leader, Sagay said nothing bars the former Lagos State gover­nor from contesting for the highest political office in the land.

“Definitely, he (Tinubu) is free to contest. He is a potential presidential can­didate with quite a number of others. Yes, there is no restric­tion or obstruction stop­ping him from contesting if he wants to,” he said.

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